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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs: Brooks Koepka,

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Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Thomas ignites to seize early lead at BMW Championship
Aug 16, 2019 4:45 AM
 
Prediction is a mug’s game. This blog dedicated its Thursday morning postto previewing Justin Thomas’ hopes of ending a year-long PGA Tour trophy drought at the BMW Championship at Medinah Golf and Country Club in Illinois. The 28-year-old arrived into the second event of the playoff series with just a single top-10 finish to his name in 10 starts since the end of March, and while he is the second best performing player yet to win in 2019 (he ranks No.15 in the FedEx Cup standings, just two spots behind the also winless Tony Finau), he has slumped to the fringes of the world’s top-10and was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors during the early summer. Put simply, Thomas was in serious need of a big performance in Illinois to have any chance of salvaging a victory from what has been a deeply frustrating campaign, one hampered by a wrist injury that side-lined him for part of April and all of May. Well, cometh the hour, cometh the man; Thomas avoided registering a single bogey en routeto a 7-under opening-round of 65 at Medinah on Thursday, a score matched only by the in-form Jason Kokrak. He will consequently tee-off for the second-round with a single-stroke leadaway from Americans Patrick Cantlay, Jim Furyk, Joel Dahmen, Lucas Glover and Brandt Snedeker are tied for third after signing for 66 on Thursday. Despite having the "worst warmup" of his life, Justin Thomas tied the course record at Medinah on Thursday. He's tied for the lead at the BMW Championship: https://t.co/1Ou7g3WE48 pic.twitter.com/1V27JfXRd1 — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 15, 2019 Defending FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose bogeyed the last to finish on a four-under 68, level with world number one Brooks Koepka, who started the tournament in first place, and Patrick Reed, who won The Northern Trust last week.Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, who started the week third in the FedEx Cup standings, is a shot further back on three under alongside compatriot Graeme McDowell. Thomas hit nine of 14 fairways and 12 greens in regulation on Thursday, but was a perfect six-for-six in scrambling. His last hole was emblematic of his day, as his third shot from the greenside bunker clanked off the flagstick and left him a par putt of just over four feet, which he made. Perhaps most significantly, the 2017 FedEx Cup winner gained 1.816 strokes to the average of the field when putting to rank 11th in Strokes Gained: Puttingout of a 70-man field. The stat is particularly striking when one accounts for the fact that putting has consistently undermined Thomas’ exceptional tee-to-green play in 2019. Indeed, he arrived in Illinois ranked third on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approaching-the-Green and second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. When it came to Strokes Gained: Putting, however,he ranked No. 170out of 200 measured professionals. If the former world No.1 can maintain his current level of scoring with the flat-stick across the weekend, a second career FedEx Cup triumph may well be in the offing. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 BMW Championship betting tips - back Rahm at 16/1
Aug 14, 2019 4:40 AM
 
The build-up to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake intensifies this week as the top-30 in the 2018/19 FedEx Cup points race travel to Medinah Country Club in Illinois to contest the BMW Championship. Here follows our top-three tips for the tournament. Outright winner: Jon Rahm (16/1) The market can’t separate world Nos. 1 and 3, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy at 10/1 going into this one; however, I am happy to swerve them both. Koepka was at his domineering bestin coming from a stroke behind McIlroy to win the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational by three-shots at the end of July; however, he looked back to his usual, non-major self in tying for 30th at Liberty National last week and, as the player himself has indicated previously, he struggles to motivate himself properly to win regular Tour events. Koepka possess all of the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive on a bomber’s course such as Medinah, but given he is already assured of a starting spot at next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake (when the $15m prize-pot is really on the line), I am unconvinced the FedEx Cup points leaderwill be adequately motivated to produce his best golf in Illinois. Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy tee off at 11:48 a.m. ET on Thursday at Medinah Country Club.All of the tee times for the BMW Championship: https://t.co/iijmo9OcpD pic.twitter.com/SBjcqDjtr3— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 13, 2019 My reservations regarding Rory McIlroy are similarly psychological. Like Koepka, the Northern Irishman has enjoyed an outstanding seasoncomprising victories at The Players Championship and the Canadian Open in addition to 11 further top-10 finishes, including a T6 in New York last week. Indeed, the 30-year-old is having one of the greatest PGA Tour seasons since performances were systematically tracked and measured. He is one of only nine playersever to average 2.18 strokes gained per round (or better) since the statistic was invented in 2004 and is close to equalling Tiger Woods’ record of 3 strokes-gained from 2007. It is noteworthy, however, that seven of the other nine players to match Rory’s performance level in 2019 won a major, and given the psychological brittleness he demonstratedin the opening-round of the Open Championship at Portrush and in the final-round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational last month, it is difficult to trust his ability to perform under pressure. In this context, Jon Rahm looks an extremely attractive investment as a 16/1 shot. The Spaniard ended a 14-month trophy drought by winning the Irish Openat the beginning of July and arrives at Medinah in the midst of an exceptional run of form reading T3-T2-W-T11-7-T3through his last six starts. He has the form, distance off the tee and deftness around the greens required to excel at Medinah and is overdue a fourth PGA Tour title. Top-10 Marc Leishman (70/1) Marc Leishman is a four-time PGA Tour winner; he claimed his maiden playoff titleat the BMW Championship at Conway Farms two-seasons ago (by five strokes away from Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose) and has recorded four career top-six finishes at major championship level. Put simply, the world No.24 is an elite level talent; so why, then, is he trading as long as 70/1 to triumph as part of a 70-man field? The answer is some very mixed form. The dim view is that he's missed two of his last three cuts and was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors. And yet, the positive spin is that, in his last six starts, Leishman has a top five at Memorial and a top three at St. Jude - again, both on highly-respected courses. Leishman tends to thrive against elite opposition on tough courses – he is worth an each-way bet this week. Outsider: Ian Poulter (80/1) Poulter took four points from five starts in propelling Team Europe to a seminal, come-from-behind Ryder Cup victory at Medinah back in 2012 and arrives into Illinois in strong form with two top-10s in his previous two starts.He is good value to contend this week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka underlines dominance with WGC victory
Jul 30, 2019 1:30 AM
 
Ultimately, it wasn’t even a contest. Sunday saw the eyes of the world’s sporting media fixed on the TPC Southwind in Memphis as world Nos. 1 and 2, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy prepared to do battlein the final-round of the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. McIlroy began the occasion with a single stroke lead after storming to a stunning 8-under 62 on Saturday; in addition to silencing the chorus of criticism that followed his now infamous opening-round capitulation at The Open at Royal Portrush, a victory would have been a powerful statement of intentfor the Northern Irishman. Winless in over five-years at major championship level and emphatically displaced at the top of the world rankings, Sunday provided McIlroy with a rare opportunity to outperform his principal rival directly and reaffirm his claim to be considered the leading practitioner of the ‘post-Tiger’, PGA Tour-era. Koepka had different ideas. The end of the tournament for @BKoepka, but the beginning of a friendship. Brooks met @StJude patient Reid after the win @WGCFedEx. pic.twitter.com/6AqdQisO5T — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 29, 2019 The world No.1 quickly erased McIlroy’s lead with a birdie on the par-5 third, converting from over 10-feet before the Northern Irishman missed from within 5, and added two more birdies on the fifth and sixth holes. From there, he never looked back, signing for a 5-under final-round 65 to cap an easy three-stroke victoryover Webb Simpson. McIlroy, for his part, was the only member of the top-10 who failed to break par on Sunday and wound-up in a tie for fourth after signing for a 71. “I know it's what everybody wanted, and I think it would have been incredible if it would have been us going down 18 and somebody having to make a putt on the last,” Koepka reflectedof his much-mooted showdown with McIlroy. “That would have been incredible for the fans, for everybody that showed up.” In the event, only Koepka rose to meet the occasion, producing a bogey-free round to seal his third title of the season courtesy of his second victory in just seven starts. “It’s incredible,” Koepka said. “To look at what I’ve done this year, just show consistency, try to take my game I guess to a new level and I’ve done that.” This was a vivid illustration of the extent of Koepka’s dominance over the contemporary PGA Tour field. In the key statistical measure of strokes-gained, McIlroy is having the best season of any golfer since 2004; yet, when it came down to it on Sunday, he was unable to lay a glove on Koepka. Indeed, the latter’s extraordinary competitive mentality is endorsed by the fact that he still owns one more major title than he does regular PGA Tour events. In 17 starts across all Toursthis season, Koepka has amassed two titles (he also won the CJ Cup last October) and six further top-10 finishes, including a win, two runner-up finishes and a T-4 in the year's major championships. He is, indisputably, the world’s foremost golfer at present and is essentially nailed on the retain the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award. The question, as McIlroy’s current struggles indicate, is how long Koepka is going to be able to sustain his extraordinary conversion rate at the highest level of the sport. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka blows past McIlroy to seal maiden WGC title in Memphis
Jul 29, 2019 4:15 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman electrified the world’s sporting media in the process of signing for an 8-under third-round 62 at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in Memphis on Saturday, birdying four of his final five holes to open up a one-shot lead away from world No.1, Brooks Koepka going into Sunday. Just seven days on from his traumatic opening-round capitulation at The Open at Royal Portrush, he appeared poised to deliver one of the great redemption narratives of the PGA Tour season, forcibly rebutting all those critics who denied he possessed the mental steel required to perform under pressure. This, frankly, did not work out to plan. Koepka quickly erased the deficit with a birdie on the par-5 third-hole, then added two more birdies on the fifth and sixth holes. From there, he never looked back, signing for a 5-under final-round 65 to cap an easy three-stroke victory over Webb Simpson. McIlroy, meantime, was the only player in the top 10 who failed to break par on the afternoon, tying for fourth after an indifferent 71. “I know it's what everybody wanted, and I think it would have been incredible if it would have been us going down 18 and somebody having to make a putt on the last,” Koepka reflectedof his much-mooted showdown with McIlroy. “That would have been incredible for the fans, for everybody that showed up.” With a final-round 65, Brooks Koepka earned his first World Golf Championship title and seventh PGA Tour win at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational: https://t.co/TT23rrRSJ4 pic.twitter.com/h0G82ErKNY— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) July 29, 2019 In the event, only Koepka rose to meet the occasion, producing a bogey-free round to seal his third title of the season courtesy of his second victory in just seven starts. “It’s incredible,” Koepka said. “To look at what I’ve done this year, just show consistency, try to take my game I guess to a new level and I’ve done that.” This defeat will take some getting over for Rory; the contraction in his final-round performance underlined the extent to which he has lost a crucial competitive edge in the five years that have passed since he last triumphed at major championship level. Putting, as the Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard stressed, was the primary problem for the world No. 3 on Sunday. He missed a 19-footer for birdie at the first, 16-footer for birdie at the second and a 4-footer for birdie at the third. By the time he reached the sixth green he was one stroke behind Brooks Koepka, and by the turn he was two shots back. Indeed, McIlroy needed 29 putts, his worst effort on the greens all week, and didn’t make a birdie until the 14th hole. The Northern Irishman, whose next start will be The Northern Trust in two weeks, declined to talk to the media upon returning to the clubhouse on Sunday; in light of his travails over the previous fortnight, who could blame him? [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rory McIlroy blazes to Memphis lead, sets up showdown with Koepka
Jul 28, 2019 6:01 AM
 
Much of the press reaction to Rory McIlroy’s disastrous opening-round at the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush last week was piously moralistic in tone. Commentators, many adopting a pseudo-psychoanalytic posture, attributed the 30-year-old’s inability to convert a strong run of pre-tournament forminto a fifth major championship title to a series of alleged character flaws arising from a deep-seated sense of entitlement and a concomitant brittleness in the face of even the merest hint of adversity. The esteemed Scottish pundit, Lawrence Donegan, for instance, identified an “entitled”, “spoiled brat” dynamic in McIlroy’s mental approach to the game, stressing that because the Northern Irishman was able to rely on an extraordinary level of natural talent to win as a young professional, he never acquired the mental grit and determination required to grind out victories in unfavourable competitive circumstances. Of course, such knee-jerk responses overlook the many occasions when McIlroy has demonstrated extraordinary mental strength to win tournaments under pressure; indeed, no athlete can win four majors and reach No.1 in the world rankings of their sport devoid of considerable resilience. From 27 feet.To take the outright @WGCFedEx lead.@McIlroyRory makes no mistake. #LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/THnFSi7HfH— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 27, 2019 One thinks, for example, of when the then fresh-faced 22-year-old recovered from an infamous final-round capitulation at the 2011 Masters to win his maiden major title at the US Openat Congressional just four weeks later. Furthermore, just five months have passed since the Down-native birdied two of his final four holes to close-out a single-stroke, come-from-behind victory at the Players Championship at Sawgrass. In light of last week’s disaster at Portrush, therefore, McIlroy offered a timely reminder of his enduring mental resilience at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in Memphis on Saturday, birdying four of his final five holes to sign for a sensational 8-under par third-round 62 and open up a one-shot leadaway from world No.1, Brooks Koepka going into Sunday. The world No.3 trailed the 36-hole leader, Matthew Fitzpatrick by five going into the weekend; however, an exceptional run of nine birdies and a single bogeymoved him to the summit of the leaderboard at 12-under for the tournament. “It is exciting,” said McIlroy. “He’s [Koepka] the number one player in the world, four Majors in the last three years, he’s the man right now. “I got to play with him the last couple of days and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed seeing what he can do. “The last four missed cuts that I’ve had, I’ve finished first, second, first and 12th, I’m a quick learner. We’re very fortunate in golf that there’s always next week, you can respond so quickly from setbacks and failures. “Tomorrow’s a new day. Whatever happened today is great but I’ve got to reset and try and go again tomorrow. I think it’s nice that I’ve seen some really good golf and I’ve seen some putts fall.” A McIlroy victory on Sunday would function as a timely rebuttal to his most vituperative critics. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matthew Fitzpatrick seizes half-way lead at WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Jul 27, 2019 7:56 AM
 
Matthew Fitzpatrick has never been a golfer lacking in self-confidence. Ever since winning the British Boys Amateur Championship and the US Amateur Championship in consecutive years in 2012 and 2013, the Sheffield native has been tipped for elite-level success. Indeed, his transition to the European Tour after turning professional at the beginning of 2014was as seamless as any athlete could hope reasonably to expect. Fitzpatrick claimed his maiden professional title by two-strokes away from Søren Kjeldsen, Fabrizio Zanotti, and the newly crowned Open champion, Shane Lowry at the 2015 British Masters, and has since gone on to amass four further titles at the highest level of the European game, most recently defeating Lucas Bjerregaard in a play-offto retain the Omega European Masters last September. Thus, when the 24-year-old was offered special temporary status on the PGA Tour following his runner-up finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, it is unsurprising he did not hesitate to accept the challenge, despite knowing he needed to win to qualify for the season-ending FedEx Cup Play-Off series. If things go his way this weekend, Matthew Fitzpatrick may not get those three weeks off he planned for: https://t.co/Fkn5InhR9o pic.twitter.com/uFzGoL2amf — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) July 27, 2019 Two weeks out from the beginning of the play-offs, the world No. 29is positioned strongly to secure a starting spot at the Northern Trust Open, having signed for a sensational, 6-under second-round of 66to seize a two-stroke halfway-lead at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in Memphis on Friday. Patrick Cantlay, Camron Smith, Jon Rahm and Billy Horschel are poised dangerously in a four-way share of second-placeat 7-under after 36-holes. World number one Brooks Koepka is alongside England's Justin Rose and Ian Poulter on five under at TPC Southwind. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut at The Open in Portrush, is a shot further back on four under after his 67. “The goal at the start of the season was to get my card and obviously I wrapped that up early, so anything extra is a bonus,” Fitzpatrick reflectedupon returning to the clubhouse. “I was looking forward to some time off at the end of August. But if I were to make the play-offs, then that would obviously be brilliant.” Fitzpatrick’s second round got off to a perfect start with birdies at each of his first four holes to move from five strokes off the lead to one back. He added three more birdies from there and just a single bogey to grab the lead at 9 under par and seems well positioned going into the weekend. “I thought I put myself in a good position,” he said. “To be where I was, I was a little surprised. I was just solo second straightaway, but it was a great start.” Fitzpatrick’s challenge now will be to maintain his present rate of scoring across the weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka hoping Irish caddie can prove the difference at Portrush
Jul 17, 2019 2:09 AM
 
Another major title, another curiously low-key tenor of media build-up for Brooks Koepka. The 29-year-old became the first golfer in more than three decades to retain the US Open titleat Shinnecock last June; two-months ago, he repeated the same feat at the PGA Championshipat Bethpage Black and finished runner-up at both the 2019 Masters and the US Open to Tiger Woods and Gary Woodland respectively. Ahead of this week’s Open Championship at The Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush in County Antrim, however, he claimed that his accomplishments have been undervalued by the media. Koepka has long been perceived to play with a "chip on his shoulder", deriving motivation from the (not entirely unfounded perception) that he has yet to receive due recognition for the scale of his accomplishments at major championship level. Indeed, the world No. 1 has finished first or second in five of the last six major championships and recently avowedthat it is easier to win majors than regular PGA Tour events. ‘Hey, dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round?’ Tiger got denied when he requested a trip around Royal Portrush with Brooks Koepka: https://t.co/G3NQXTUoMk pic.twitter.com/u82zxGGC7R — Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) 16 July 2019 Nevertheless, the Florida-native told a press conference on Tuesdaythat he is over caring what the media thinks of him and professed to be focused fully on his bid to claim a second major victory of the season at Royal Portrush. "I'm over that, I'm over trying to get the recognition," Koepka reflected. "You either like me or you don't, that's life in general. That's not anything I'm too concerned about at this moment. "I think you always have to have a chip on your shoulder, no matter what it is. Every great athlete and every major sport always has one. Over the last year and a half, I just felt like if other guys had done what I had done it would be a bigger deal. "Now it doesn't matter to me. I've got my own chip on my shoulder for what I'm trying to accomplish. I've got my own goals I want to set, and that's where I find I guess my chip. How many majors I want to win, how many wins, my own accomplishments." Koepka has every reason to feel confident of his chances of contending in County Antrim; indeed, his hopes are boosted significantly owing to the fact that his caddie, Ricky Elliott is a Portrush-native who estimates he’s played roughly 1,000 rounds at this week’s venue. Given Portrush has not hosted an Open for 69-years, 90% of the field know nothing of the course; Tiger Woods, for instance, confessed that ‘This is all new to me’. Elliott’s insider-knowledge, therefore, has the potential to prove decisive. “Every hole, I just step up on, ‘You tell me what to do; you’ve played it more than anybody,” Koepka said. “Just let him figure it out. He knows his spots to miss it, the spots to come in from, with different hole locations and different winds. “Definitely have a little bit more confidence having him on the bag this week, knowing this golf course so well.” Koepka will tee-off at 13.04 this afternoon alongside Shubhankar Sharma and Louis Oosthuizen. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 British Open betting tips – who can outscore Rory on his home patch?
Jul 16, 2019 2:16 AM
 
The 2019 major championship season concludes with the oldest and arguably the most prestigious of them all this week, the Open Championship. For the first time since 1951, the event is being staged outside of England or Scotland at The Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Here follows our three best tips for the tournament. Winner: Rory McIlroy (10/1) Northern Ireland’s own Rory McIlroy fronts-up the betting market at 10/1 for this one – deservedly so. The home favourite grew-up playing Portrush and consequently knows the course like the back of his hand; indeed, he shot a course-record 61 as a 16-year-old, almost exactly 14 years ago, and arrives into County Antrim in the midst of the most consistent form of his decorated career. McIlroy has won two of his last nine tournaments(the Players Championship and the Canadian Open), and while he disappointed somewhat in finishing T34 at the Scottish Open last week, he has totalled 11 top-10s from 14 starts in 2019, posting T21-T8-T9 finishes at the Masters, US PGA Championship and US Open. Perhaps the most persuasive reason to back Rory to end a four-year major championship trophy drought this week derives from the strength of his links form. He claimed his maiden Open at Hoylake in 2014, and although he has been unable to recapture the title, he's finished inside the top-five in each of the last three Opens. “A member of the golf club phoned me and told me, and I thought it was a joke. No one can shoot 61 around Royal Portrush.” Well, it happened, and 16-year-old Rory McIlroy was the one to do it... https://t.co/7pGpVDGY6e pic.twitter.com/vuEf6jHC9m — GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) July 15, 2019 Of course, McIlroy will not have things all his own way in Portrush. World No.1, Brooks Koepka, for instance, has finished first or second in five of the last six major championships and is aiming to surpass Rory’s haul of four majors. World No.2, Dustin Johnson, meantime, has won twice in 2019, posting six further top-10s, including T2 finishes at the Masters and US PGA Championship. However, neither player boasts a particularly strong Open record; indeed, Koepka’s MC-67-10-6-39 run is his weakest at any of the sport’s big four tournaments, while DJ hasn’t finished higher than T20since contending at the PGA Championship in June. If he can keep his nerves in check, there is no reason why McIlroy shouldn’t be able to claim his fifth career major on front of a raucous home support. Top-10: Jon Rahm (16/1) In two-and-a-half decorated seasons as a professional, the Spaniard has amassed an indifferent 59-44-MC record at the Open. This explains why a player with 10 top-10 finishes to his name in his last 15 startscan trade as long as 16/1 to win his maiden major title at Portrush. I see this as exceptional value. After all, just two weeks have passed since Rahm signed for a final-round 62 to win his second Irish Open title in three-yearsat Lahinch Golf Club in County Clare (his seventh title since turning professional in 2017), and consequently arrives into Antrim off the back of an exceptional T3-T2-1 run of form through his last three starts. The 24-year-old ranks fourth on the PGA Tour in 2019for strokes-gained tee-to-green and it is only a matter of time until his game clicks at Open Championship-level. Back him to maintain his exceptional run of results on Irish soil with a top-10 finish. Outsider: Henrik Stenson (35/1) Stenson struggled badly in 2018; while he recorded a solid eight top-10s to two missed-cuts in 26 starts across all Tours, he failed to register a single top-three finish and tumbled from No.9 down to No.26in the Official World Golf Rankings. A run of four missed-cuts to one top-10 through his first 12 starts in 2019 served only to confirm the suspicion held by many commentators that the 43-year-old had entered into a period of irrevocable late-career decline, falling outside of the world’s top-40. In recent weeks, however, Stenson has bucked this trend, following up a T8-T9 run at the Canadian and US Opens with an impressive T4 finish in Scotlandlast week. Stenson is one of the most gifted links players of his generation: he won the Claret Jug in a sensational shootout against Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon in 2016 and owns three further top-three finishesat the sport’s oldest major. The value in backing the veteran is enhanced when one accounts for the fact that nine of the last 12 Open champions have been 35 or older. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Woodland claims dramatic US Open triumph away from Koepka
Jun 17, 2019 11:04 AM
 
Ultimately, the greatest testament to the scale of Gary Woodland’s achievement in claiming his maiden major championship triumph at the 119th US Open at Pebble Beach is the identity of the runner-up. World No.1, Brooks Koepka arrived in California seeking to become only the second golfer in the history of the sport to win three US Open titles in-a-row; when he drew to within a single stroke of Woodland’s lead at various points during Sunday’s final-round, it seemed a formality that he would go on to claim a fifth major championship victoryin his previous nine such starts. Seven times Woodland had held a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour and every time he had failed to close the deal. As it turned-out, however, the leader was made of far sterner material than many commentators had anticipated and he birdied two of his five holes, including the intimidating par-5 eighteenth, en route to a 2-under final-round 69 and a three-shot triumphaway from the form player in world golf. Gary Woodland is the #USOpen champion.The American held off world number one Brooks Koepka to win his first major.https://t.co/jXNE52Z2Fb pic.twitter.com/A4HCbALBHJ— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) 17 June 2019 Every major winner has his moments, those pivotal turning-points in a final-round that determine the ultimate outcome of the tournament. Three such instances stand-out from Woodland’s performance on Sunday, for when Koepka dropped four birdies in his opening five-holes, this tournament appeared to be trending only in one direction. First, Woodland diced with danger when aiming for the par five 14th green from 263 yards. His three-wood approach seemed destined for trouble but instead bounced favourably from the top of a bunker protecting the front of the green. A crucial birdie followed. At the 17th, Woodland played a quite superb chip over a ridge to 2ft. On the last, the 35-year-old converted a birdie putt from 30ft. Short game, for so long a Woodland weakness, proved a Pebble Beach strength. “I’ve just always believed in myself,” Woodland reflected. “No matter what I’ve done, from when I was a young kid, I always believed I would be successful. I believed I would play professional sports. I always believed I would be in this moment. I always just wanted to be successful. I didn’t know what it was, what I was going to do. I fell in love with golf, and it’s transcended to today.” Koepka, for his part, was characteristically magnanimous in defeat, content to credit the champion with producing an outstanding, 13-under winning total. “I played great, nothing I could do,” Koepka said. “Gary played a great four days. That’s what you’ve got to do if you want to win a US Open and hats off to him. He deserves it, he’s worked hard and I’m happy for him.” With Sunday’s victory, Woodland has been elevated to a new, career-high ranking of No.12and is ideally placed to contend for the FedEx Cup play-off series. The 35-year-old must focus now on sustaining his belated ascent to the elite-level of the world game. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 US Open betting tips – Back Spieth for the title
Jun 11, 2019 12:20 PM
 
The PGA Tour elite travel to Pebble Beach Golf Links in California for the 119th US Open this week; here follows our top-three bets for the tournament. Outright winner: Jordan Spieth (18/1) Three players lead the betting market at 9/1 heading into this one – world Nos. 1, 2 and 3, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy – and there is a compelling case to be made for all three contending. Koepka, of course, is the defending champion and arrives into Pebble Beach fresh off the back of claiming his fourth major title in his last eight attemptsat the US Open at Bethpage Black last month. Indeed, the 28-year-old is aiming to become the first golfer since Willie Anderson (1903-05) to win three US Open titles in a row and finished eighth on the occasion of his only previous start on the California track at the Pro-Am two seasons ago. That said, Koepka was fortunate to claim the Wannamaker trophy after a concerning run of four consecutive bogeys on the back-nine of his final-round in New York, and he could only manage a T50 finishat the Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ontario last week. McIlroy, by contrast, arrives in California fresh off the back of having claimed his second title of the season in Ontarioby a full seven-shot margin and, with 10 top-10s to his name through 12 starts in 2019, he is producing his most consistent golf since winning The Open, the WGC-Bridgestone and the US PGA Championship consecutively in the summer of 2014. That said, McIlroy has no real form to speak of at Pebble and has missed each of his last three consecutive US Open cuts. Indeed, he has four MCs and just a single top-10 at America’s oldest major since claiming his first such titleas a 21-year-old back in 2010 at Quail Hollow. Johnson has the strongest bona fides as a 9/1 shot. The 34-year-old has already wonthe Saudi Open and the WGC-Mexico Championship this season and finished second at both the Masters and the US PGA Championship. More significantly, he has recorded 10 top-10s in 13 career starts at Pebble Beach; he won the annual Pro-Am in 2009 and 2010 consecutively and led the 2010 US Open through 54-holes before collapsing in spectacular fashion on the Sunday with a final-round 82. Jordan Spieth: "I may only hit as few as 3 or 4 drivers on this week. If the tees are all the way back, possibly 6 or 7. You just have to hit whatever club gets you in fairways here." pic.twitter.com/1KPv54L0z0 — LinksNation (@LinksNation) 11 June 2019 Indeed, it is precisely that final-round fragility, evidenced at both the Masters and the US PGA already this season, that gives me pause before investing in DJ. His major breakthrough at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont is beginning to feel like it occurred a very long time ago indeed and I no longer trust him to perform under pressure. In this context Jordan Spieth appeals as a 28/1 shot. The 2015 US Open winner began the year disastrously, failing to record a single top-20 finish through his first 11 starts of the season, and remains winless since claiming his third major title at the 2017 British Open. That said, he arrives in Pebble off the back of three top-10s through his last three starts, including a T3 at Bethpage last month, and won the 2017 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The 25-year-old is overdue a win and it would be typical of him to return to the winner’s circle at a major. Top-10: Francesco Molinari (30/1) Crazy odds. The world No.7came within a hair’s breadth of claiming a second major title at The Masters in April, winding up back in a tie for fifth, and has already won this season at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March. The 2018 Open champion more than has the game required to contend at Pebble. Top-10: Phil Mickelson (50/1) With a career Grand Slam once again on the line the veteran won’t be wanting for motivation. Mickelson has finished second in the US Open on six occasions; he finished fourth the last time the major was played at Pebble in 2010, and claimed his fiftieth professional titleat the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
McIlroy wins Canadian Open, lays down marker for Pebble Beach
Jun 10, 2019 12:22 PM
 
A week is a long time in golf. This time seven-days ago Rory McIlroy traded longer than 12/1 to end a four-year major championship trophy drought at the US Open at Pebble Beach and his PGA Tour season was perceived widely to be flagging. For the first three months of 2019, the Northern Irishman dominated the front-pages of the world’s golfing media; he finished inside the top-10 in each of his first seven consecutive starts of the season leading into the Masters, and when he birdied two of his last four holesen route to winning The Players Championship at Sawgrassin March, the career Grand Slam appeared firmly on the cards at Augusta. A disappointing T21 showing at the Masters, however, appeared to stymie the momentumhe had generated through the early stages of the season, and while he finished inside the top-10 at both the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in the late spring, he failed to contend meaningfully for either trophy. Suffice to say, the four-time major winner’s 2019 campaign was increasingly receding into the shadow cast bythe seeming indominable world No.1, Brooks Koepka, and he travelled to Hamilton Golf and Country Club to make his Canadian Open debut last week off the back of a first missed-cut of the season at the Memorial Tournament at Colonial. It was perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that he traded longer than Koepka and defending champion, Dustin Johnson to depart Canada with the title. However, a 3-under opening-round 67 immediately thrust the world No.3 into contention in Hamilton, and when he followed that score up with a 66 on the Friday and a 64 on the Saturday he drew level with an increasingly rattled-looking, Webb Simpson (67) and Matt Kuchar (69) at the summit of the 54-hole leaderboardat 13-under 197. It was difficult to shake the feeling that if McIlroy’s game clicked on Sunday, it was his tournament to lose. What a weekend at the @RBCCanadianOpen. Fans were incredible and I'm so proud to win Canada's biggest event. @Raptors in 5! pic.twitter.com/kNIilHPn0v— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) 10 June 2019 Unfortunately for those seeking to supplant the former world No.1 atop the summit of the final-round leaderboard, his game clicked in emphatic fashion. Indeed, McIlroy had the magic number of 59 on his radar from the start. On a par-70 course in Ontario, he was nine under for his round after holing out from 30 feet at the 14th. A dropped shot at the 16th – his first of the weekend – apparently halted 59 watch but McIlroy was to eagle the penultimate hole. Hopes of joining elite golfing company in the 59 club ended as the 30-year-old missed the 18th green, with a bogey meaning he had to settle for a 61 and a seven-shot victory. Understandably, he wasn’t perturbed by that. “I played with so much freedom over the weekend, more than I’ve had for a while,” he said. “That’s exciting not only for winning this tournament but with what’s ahead. “The 59 was definitely in my sights. The bogeys were disappointing but at least I gave myself a chance at it. To get a win going into next week is huge. I feel great. I’m going to enjoy this tonight but I’ll forget about it in the morning and have my sights on something else next week.” McIlroy has always been a momentum golfer and has tended to produce his best performances in rapid, short-fire bursts of success; one thinks, for instance, of his run of three victories through The Open, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA Championship in the summer of 2014. If he hits top-gear at Pebble Beach next week, a long overdue fifth major is firmly on the cards. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Johnson seeking to lay down US Open marker in Canada
Jun 7, 2019 12:27 PM
 
Dustin Johnson is seeking to lay down a marker as he travels to defend his RBC Heritage Canadian Open title at Hamilton Golf and Country Club this week. After all, just three weeks have passed since the 34-year-old squandered a golden opportunityto claim a second major championship title on the occasion of his most recent start at the 101st US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Starting the final-round seven-strokes shy of the seemingly indominable 54-hole leader, Brooks Koepka, Johnson reduced the deficit to four-strokes upon reaching the turn after carding an enormously impressive 3-under front-nine. Clearly pressured, Koepka bogeyed four-holes in a row between holes 12 and 15 enabling Johnson to draw to within a single stroke of the lead with three-holes to play. The momentum of the tournament appeared to be ebbing solely in one direction. Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell will tee off at 8:13 a.m. PT on Thursday at the U.S. Open. The full list of tee times: https://t.co/lLW8fmqZ5o pic.twitter.com/rvDYndgMTS — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) 7 June 2019 Johnson, however, failed emphatically to capitalise on the good fortune that had befallen him, bogeying the 16th and 17th consecutively to effectively hand the Wannamaker Trophy to a crumbling leader. He ultimately finished in outright second at 6-under despite being one of just 10 players to break par in extremely challenging conditions on the Sunday (his score of 69 was bested by just two players). It marked the occasion of his tenth top-10 finish in his past 16 major startsand completed a career Grand Slam of runners-up finishes. Inevitably, much of the post-tournament analysis was rooted in an exposition of the contrasting professional fortunes of Koepka and Johnson, two stylistically similar players who have promoted a high-profile friendship in the media. For in the three-and-a-half seasons that have passedsince DJ claimed his sole major championship triumph at the 2016 US Open, Koepka has won four major titles and has decisively displaced his buddy at the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings. Indeed, Koepka’s contemporary dominance is such that he has declared publiclyhis intention to treat this week’s Canadian Open as a simple warm-up for the US Open at Pebble Beach where he will be seeking to win the event for a third consecutive season. Johnson, by contrast will be approaching this week’s tournament seriously as an opportunity to restore momentum to a frustrating campaign that has since him finish second at each of the season’s opening two major titles. Significantly, however, he will need to overcome four of the top six players in the world rankings, four of the top five in the FedExCup standings, and a couple of past champions in order to retain his title. One must also account for the fact that there are 26 Canadians in this week’s 156-man field, some of them very familiar with the course (think Mackenzie Hughes) and eager to break a winless drought that dates all the way back to 1954. “I feel like my game is in good form,” Johnson commented to the local pressfollowing a strong practice session on Wednesday afternoon. “I’m looking for a strong finish to the season. I feel like I’m rested. I’m mentally sharp and ready to go for the last push through the end of the year.” Hamilton Golf and Country Club would be a good place to start that push. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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